April 29, 2008

Seashore leader files information on the eve of hearing

Federal attorneys filed a “declaration” by Cape Hatteras National Seashore Superintendent Mike Murray late today in U.S. District Court in Raleigh on the eve of a hearing on the contentious issue of ORV access at the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. 

The document contains Murray’s overview of the Interim Protected Species Management Plan and the “key modifications” of that plan under the proposed consent decree. One change, he says, is that ORV access in the summer months will be “significantly” reduced to protect nesting shorebirds and sea turtles.

The declaration is 19 pages long.  Along with it, attorneys filed another dozen or so pages of maps and charts explaining buffers that will keep ORVs, and sometimes pedestrians, away from nesting shorebirds.

The interim plan is guiding the park’s management of ORV use on its beaches until there is a long-term ORV rule, which is being formulated by a negotiated rulemaking committee.

The proposed consent decree was filed in federal court on April 16.  It would settle a lawsuit filed in October by Defenders of Wildlife and the National Audubon Society, represented by Southern Environmental Law Center, over ORV operation on the seashore beaches, which the groups say is illegal.  They claim that the interim plan does not go far enough to protect shorebirds and sea turtles.

The plaintiffs, the federal defendants, and the defendant/intervenors – Dare and Hyde counties and the Cape Hatteras Access Preservation Alliance – agreed on a settlement after several weeks of negotiation in April.

U.S. District Court Judge Terrence W. Boyle will conduct a hearing tomorrow at 2 p.m. on the settlement, also known as a consent decree.

The federal filing today notes that Murray will be available in court tomorrow to talk about the consent decree and discuss the maps of pre-nesting and nesting areas and how they will affect access to some of the seashore’s most popular fishing and recreation area – Bodie Inlet spit, Cape Point and South Beach, Hatteras Inlet, and the north and south point of Ocracoke.

In his declaration, Murray notes that he believes the proposed consent decree will “ensure effective resource protection and a reduced but reasonable level of ORV access” for the next three years while the Park Service completes its long-range ORV management plan.

Murray states in the filing that ORV access in fall and winter will be similar to what it is now under the interim plan.  However, he says, that during nesting season in the summer, there will be “a significant reduction in ORV access.”

Declaration of Cape Hatteras National Seashore Superintendent Mike Murray.  With Maps.

 Comments are always welcomed!

     Subject :

     Name :  (required)

     Email :  (required, will not be published)

     City :   (required)    State :   (required)

     Your Comments:

May be posted on the Letters to the Editor page at the discretion of the editor.